Five Best Thursday Columns

'Caylee' laws, the future of News Corp., and Marcus Bachmann-hater hypocrisy

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Ed Kilgore on Bachmann's 'Rough Road Ahead'  Ed Kilgore points out in The New Republic that Michele Bachmann has very quickly risen from a fringe figure to a leading choice for the Republican presidential nomination. "But now that Bachmann is the real deal," he writes, "her candidacy is about to endure its toughest moments yet--including intensified scrutiny of her background and character (which is already very much under way), unrealistic expectations for her candidacy, a possible existential threat from Governor Rick Perry, and GOP elite misgivings about her electability." Bachmann is already handling criticism of her husband and her history of migraines well, but more scrutiny over her reported instability and relationships with extremist Christians will come. She must also manage heightened expectations of a win in Iowa, and Kilgore points to the neutrality of some important Iowa state figures as a sign that those expectations may be unrealistic. But the greatest threats Kilgore says are the prospect that Perry will enter the race, eating away at her support from social conservatives, and the continued skepticism of the Republican elite. These factors, Kilgore concludes, make up the "storm clouds ahead" for Bachmann. "She'd better batten down the hatches for a very rough ride."

The Los Angeles Times Opposes 'Caylee's Law'  Sixteen states have introduced bills that would make failure to report one's child missing or dead a felony in the wake of the Casey Anthony verdict. "[W]hat's dismaying about the so-called Caylee's Law is that it criminalizes bad parenting," writes the Los Angeles Times editorial board. "It's not hard to imagine the result. There are all too many indigent and uninvolved parents in California, many with substance-abuse or mental health problems, who will end up in court if either bill becomes law, while their kids, who might have run away or gone to a friend's house for a day or two, will be more likely to end up in foster care." The law will thus cost the state money, and furthermore, the paper argues, will be unlikely to change behavior in cases like Anthony's. Anthony waited a month to report her daughter missing and, had a law such as this one been on the books, she would have perhaps served slightly more prison time, but there would have been no change to the verdict on her murder charges. "Obviously, people should report dead or missing children," the Times writes, "but if parents are responsible for their deaths, a new law won't compel them to do so."

John Gapper on Opening Up News Corp.  News Corp. "must be reformed from the top," writes John Gapper in the Financial Times. Some have floated a plan to promote the company's chief operating officer to chief executive, leaving Rupert Murdoch with the "executive chairman" title. Such an arrangement "would be little more than title-shuffling," Gapper writes. "Instead of a board of insiders who obey Mr Murdoch's whims, [News Corp.] needs a new chairman who can recruit new directors and provide the oversight that its executives plainly need." Murdoch seems to intend to remain where he is and to set up his three children as heirs to the company. Instead, he should look to companies like Disney which have successfully transitioned from a family company to a public one. "A better plan would be for Mr Murdoch to remain as chief executive for a while, until the board and the voting structure gets sorted out under a new, truly independent chairman," Gapper says. "He could then step down gracefully in the next couple of years in favour of Mr Carey, which would turn News Corp into a professionally run global enterprise."

Meghan Daum on Marcus Bachmann "Isn't it a little ironic that the Bachmanns are being hectored by people who regularly preach tolerance and rail against stereotypes?" asks Meghan Daum in the Los Angeles Times. Daum is not talking about the fire from the left over Michele and Marcus Bachmann's long career of speaking out against the gay lifestyle, but rather, the "nudge-nudge flurry of middle-school locker-room innuendo," that asserts that Marcus Bachmann is himself a closeted gay man. Typically tolerant observers and comedians from Jon Stewart to Dan Savage have made the jokes, she writes. "In their defense," Daum says, "the anti-Bachmann crusaders would say that the target here isn't Marcus' perceived sexuality, it's the hypocrisy that would be exposed if it turned out he weren't as straight an arrow as he purports to be." But Bachmann preaches that gay acts are separate from gay urges, and given the lack of evidence or even accusations that Bachmann has acted on sexual attraction to other men, "how do you pin hypocrisy on someone who practices what he preaches? ... Besides," she finishes, "when the stuff someone says is this ridiculous, there's no need to ridicule the tone of voice in which it's said."

John Taylor on the Return to Interventionism  "In my view, the best way to understand the problems confronting the American economy is to go back to the basic principles upon which the country was founded--economic freedom and political freedom," writes Stanford economics professor John Taylor in The Wall Street Journal. Taylor compares the slowed recovery of the past few years to the strength of the economy in the decades after the inflation crisis of the 70s and concludes that government non-interventionist policies made that recovery stronger than the current one. "Attention was paid to the principles of economic and political liberty: limited government, incentives, private markets, and a predictable rule of law," he writes. "As the 21st century began, many hoped that applying these same limited-government and market-based policy principles to Social Security, education and health care would create greater opportunities and better lives for all Americans." Instead both parties took more interventionist tack with "loose monetary policy," involvement in the housing market, and more recent government bailouts. "The harmful interventionist policies of the 1970s were supported by Democrats and Republicans alike," he concludes. "So were the less interventionist polices in the 1980s and '90s. So was the recent interventionist revival, and so can be the restoration of less interventionist policy going forward."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.